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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

McMorris Rodgers says GOP working on ‘Obamacare’ surgery

Lawmaker says portions of 2010 law ‘are not ready’

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, said the GOP plans to pick away at President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation by targeting provisions she said are causing bipartisan headaches.

“To get the entire bill repealed, or defunded, is probably not realistic,” McMorris Rodgers said Thursday following a spirited town hall discussion in Spokane Wednesday night in which the Affordable Care Act took center stage. “But I do think there are provisions in the law that we can get delayed, or provisions in the law we can get defunded.”

Federal lawmakers will return to Washington, D.C., after Labor Day with many issues on their collective plate, perhaps none more divisive than how to implement the sweeping reforms to the nation’s health care system signed into law three years ago. As the fourth-ranking member in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, McMorris Rodgers predicts several provisions have enough bipartisan opposition that they’ll be excised.

“I think there’s growing recognition that … portions of the law are not ready,” McMorris Rodgers said, citing recent votes in the House in which Democrats joined Republicans to delay the mandates in the law requiring employers and individuals to sign up on subsidized health insurance exchanges.

The employer mandate delay came on the heels of an announcement last month that the administration would not penalize businesses with more than 50 employees for postponing their enrollment until 2015. The department’s Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur wrote in a statement the administration was responding to concerns from businesses “about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively.”

McMorris Rodgers said as the debate on implementation moves forward, more complications would likely be revealed. She cited a new tax levied on the production and sale of medical devices as a potential source of bipartisan bristling.

The White House has called the House’s efforts to repeal the law, dubbed Obamacare on both sides of the aisle, as a waste of time and political posturing without substance. The House has voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare but the effort has gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“They don’t have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates,” Obama said of House opposition earlier this month.

The health care debate will likely roll into the larger issue of government spending when Congress reconvenes in September, McMorris Rodgers said. Senate Democrats, including Washington Sen. Patty Murray who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, have derided Republicans for refusing to come to the negotiating table on a federal spending plan. Both chambers passed nonbinding budget resolutions this spring, but they vary widely in their approach to spending on entitlement programs and taxation.

McMorris Rodgers said the delay concerns the top-line spending figure in the Senate’s budget resolution. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nondefense discretionary spending under the Senate budget would grow to 7.7 percent of GDP by 2023, while under the House plan such spending would be 5.2 percent of GDP in the same year, mostly through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

“I am told that Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Murray are really working to try to get to common ground,” McMorris Rodgers said. But Murray has, as recently as last month, penned several op-eds deriding GOP leadership for what she calls “stall tactics” on the federal budget.

Immigration reform has been another issue McMorris Rodgers said constituents have raised with her during her recess in the district. Her leadership position within the party gives her perspective on strategy and legislative proposals, including potential reforms to the nation’s policies on citizenship.

“I am willing to look at proposals for a pathway to legalization, to bring people out of the shadows,” McMorris Rodgers said. She has advocated for a more robust guest-worker program to support specialty crop harvest in central Washington but said the Senate’s proposal penned by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” is likely dead in the water. Numerous polls have suggested a majority of Americans back changes to immigration outlined in the Senate bill, including a new pathway to citizenship as well as enhanced border security.

McMorris Rodgers said Republicans benefited from their defeat in the 2012 presidential campaign by forcing “an honest look at ourselves and how we are perceived.” She said Republicans will continue to do so as they look for new leadership with the 2016 presidential campaign already heating up, a race she hopes to be around in the Capitol to witness.

“I’m planning to run for re-election myself and taking care of issues and projects important to Eastern Washington,” McMorris Rodgers said.